Tom Stern, ASC, and now AFC

by Willy Kurant ASC, AFC

par Willy Kurant

[ English ] [ français ]

We are pleased to welcome Tom in his migration to the AFC.
Usually, it’s AFC members who knock on the door of the ASC to become members !
Why this attachment to France for a DP who is à la mode because of his work on the films of Clint Eastwood ? He started as a gaffer for 18 years with Clint… and DPs Bruce Surtees, Owen Roizman and Jack Green.

Flashback : Tom, aged 16, was taken by his father, an aeronautic engineer, to Toulouse where they lived for 3 years… The father buys airplanes, Caravelles, for American Airlines… And his son is living the life of a French high school student … He will always be nostalgic for this teenage period. He now has a French wife, a house in the Gers region, a French resident card, etc. ...

Born in Palo Alto, home of computer science geeks, Tom enters Stanford University, one of the most recognized and prestigious American universities. Most students want to become directors… or DPs, fairly quickly… But he, as an electricity geek (various tools, electronics, screws, clamps, etc.) will become an electrician, then a gaffer in order to learn ... His bible was the American Cinematographer Manual.

He quickly became the gaffer for Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler, and so on. I am myself part of “and so on”, with three feature films, The Mafu Cage (visual adviser), Harper Valley PTA by Richard C. Bennett, Running Scared by Paul Glickler, Outside Chance by Michael Miller, plus a few commercials.

Willy Kurant, left, and Tom Stern pampering by Nastasja Kinski, bathed in light, in 1981
Willy Kurant, left, and Tom Stern pampering by Nastasja Kinski, bathed in light, in 1981

We have known each other for 31 years and are friends (in fact the first time he met Conrad was at a dinner at my home).
During a shoot in Arizona with me (Outside Chance), he met Bill Kaplan, a sound engineer, and they founded a lighting rental company, Sequoia, at first in a small hangar in LA (like the Mac geeks). Then, Sequoia became well known in the US. Clint Eastwood, a man very loyal to his crews, finally gave him a chance… And the rest is history.
After shooting a film in Moscow with Pavel Lounguine, Tom went to France to time the film Faubourg 36 by Christophe Barratier, and then it’s back with Eastwood again.

(Translated from French by Benjamin B)